Increased immersion encourages double major of foreign language, education

Jared Crain, Campus Carrier Deputy News Editor

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Head of the World Languages division in the Georgia Department of Education, Patrick Wallace (center), presented to Berry foreign language faculty and students including senior Megan Petrovich (left), sophomore Liz Swanigan, senior Graham Johnson and freshman Victoria Millard.

With the growth of foreign language immersion in primary and secondary education in Georgia and nationwide, the necessity for foreign language educators has increased. Recognizing this need, several Berry students are double majoring in Foreign Language and Education. 

Julia Barnes, associate professor of Spanish and department chair of foreign languages, explained that there are an increasing number of students coming into Berry with four or five years of foreign language from secondary education. She said that due to the demand for school teachers with proficiency in foreign language, Spanish is one of the largest majors where a graduate can walk out of Berry and get a job in the state of Georgia.

“There’s a lot of possibility for teachers in the state, and that’s why the education major is also so big,” Barnes said.

The Foreign Language Department hosted Patrick Wallace, the head of the World Languages division in the Georgia Department of Education, for a lecture on the state and national developments in foreign language education and how they pertain to primary, secondary and higher education schools.

According to Wallace, the hot topic in Georgia foreign language education currently is the effort to increase the level of Dual Language Immersion (DLI), or the teaching of certain subjects in English in addition to certain subjects in a language other than English.

“The first part of the day is maybe Spanish and math in Spanish, and then the students go over and learn English and history in English,” Wallace said. “It would be perfectly natural for the kids to be immersed like this because it’s what they’d understand from kindergarten on.”

Wallace explained that since the first DLI private school opened in 2007 and the first DLI public school opened in 2008, Georgia has become the fastest growing state in the nation to adopt the system. However, finding teachers that are proficient in both the immersion language and the English language is very difficult.

According to Barnes, even though Georgia employers consider Spanish one of the most sought-after majors, it is certainly not the only language that would be implemented in the emerging DLI system.

“This is suggesting the same thing for other foreign languages like French and German because of Dual Language Immersion schools,” Barnes said.

Sophomore Kate Allen, who is double majoring in Spanish and Education as well as minoring in TEFL, or teaching English as a foreign language, feels like she will have a lot of opportunities to interact with and educate students, particularly with regard to the DLI standards.

“The two majors and minor complement each other really well,” Allen said. “For instance, I could teach a Spanish speaker how to speak English, or I could teach an English speaker how to speak Spanish.”

Sophomore Liz Swanigan, double majoring in French and Early Childhood Education, came into Berry having attended both public and private school and having taken six and a half years of French before college. She also believes that there is a growing necessity for DLI educators in a state and nation that have increased in student foreign language standards and enrollment.

“There is an increasing need for foreign language teachers and teachers in Dual Language Immersion schools, and I have the unique qualifications to do that,” Swanigan said. “If I have the ability to teach students in two languages or even educate them about another culture, I am well-equipped to develop these students to be global citizens.”

According to Wallace, from 2007 to 2014, the nation has seen a 30 percent increase in enrollments in foreign languages for K-12 students as world language becomes increasingly significant in primary and secondary education. However, Wallace said the foreign language enrollment in higher education has seen a decline from 8.7 percent to 8.1 percent. This data presented by Wallace shows that there is currently a higher level of child enrollment than there are individuals seeking to become foreign language educators for these children.

Wallace explained that the state of Georgia is consistent with the national level of enrollment in primary and secondary education, and it sets the state bar at the standard “intermediate high,” which means four to five years of individual student exposure to a foreign language. According to Wallace, the Georgia Department of Education still wants to expand student proficiency and exposure to foreign language through education.

“We want to extend the breadth and depth,” Wallace said. “We want to expand offerings, reaching more of the kids not being reached by foreign language programs, but we also want to give depth to their actual experience.”

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